21 Tasting Notes

72
drank Highest View by Mandala Tea
21 tasting notes

It’s rare that this happens, but this one was kind of disappointing. Not bad tea, by any means; it just didn’t do much for me. I did three steeps in a gaiwan for 30/60/90. There was some green tea sweetness at the outset, but it dropped off pretty quickly and I was left wanting more flavor and longevity. I think it’s got potential though, so I’ll try it next time with more leaves and see how that changes the equation.

Flavors: Caramel

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

This is a happy making tea. The dark, almost stick-like leaves make it a bit hard to measure. They were still tight after one steep, but oh, that almost sweet assam odor coming off the wet leaves promised a fine cup, and didn’t disappoint. The first steep had almost a caramel nose. There was no significant sweetness and no tannin, just smooth, full tea with maybe a hint of vanilla(?) and the richness of fresh bread. The second steep unfolded the leaves and was just a bit flatter, but I thought I got some subtle chocolate tones. Interestingly, both steeps are not so good as they cooled. They got kind of, I don’t know, ashy? No, maybe just a bit of tannin. No matter, I’ll just brew up another hot cup and thoroughly enjoy it.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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75

What with one late summer thing and another, I haven’t been tasting too many new teas and certainly have not had time to write ’em up over the last few weeks. I’ll try to rectify that over the coming long weekend and moving forward. I’ve got a whole box of teas that are crying out for some attention.

I’ll start with Tea Vivre’s Yunnan Palace Ripened Pu-ehr 2005 (with apologies to the pu-ehr mavens who could no doubt do a much clearer analysis). So far, I’ve done four steeps: 30/30/45/60 at boiling; I used about half of the sample package in my small gaiwan. The wet leaves are very mushroomy and earthy, as I’d expect a pu-ehr to be, but . . .
1: dark caramel color, almost a sweet nose, with a much lighter and dryer flavor than I’d expected given the odor.
2: much darker liquor, slightly caramel odor. It had the more familiar shen flavor – really earthy – but it was smooth and not heavy at all.
3: do I smell steak?! That would be particularly weird, considering I’ve been a vegetarian since my teen years, but it really seems like that’s the odor (though I have to wonder if it was affected by the onions I was sautéing as I was sipping). Still very smooth texture.
4: again with the dry taste and somewhat flattening out. I’ll let it rest now till tomorrow and see what happens then.

Altogether a fine brew, though it doesn’t knock my socks off. I’ll enjoy the rest of the sample, but I don’t think this is one I’ll stock.

Flavors: Caramel, Earth, Mushrooms

Preparation
0 min, 45 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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88

Full disclosure: I have a cold coming on so my senses are not what they might be. Also, I tasted this over my morning paper’s shocking report of Robin Williams’ death. It’s confusing to be sad about a comic genius. But that was Robin Williams: no one better balanced tortured and utterly hilarious. Goodbye Robin. Thanks for the laughs and the pathos. You’re a master of both.

Now to the tea. I’ve only had a few milk oolongs and this is the best of the bunch. The dry leaves are pretty but nondescript; the wet leaves are a bit toasty smelling, but give no real hint about what’s to come.

Drinking this tea is a process. The first (25 second) steep made me say, “oh my.” It has the distinctive milk oolong profile, but wonderfully subtle, not “hit you over the head, hey I’m MILKY” like many of them. The second (35 second) steep was also good, and it felt like there is more potential buried in it. In steep four (45 seconds), the milkiness is more pronounced, and in steep 5 (55 seconds), the leaves are more milky, but the flavor somewhat less so. After 5, I needed to leave for work, but I left the gaiwan filled and I’m eager to see what happens after a few hours rest. All in all, a lovely, understated milk oolong that I’d be happy to drink again.

Flavors: Milk, Toasty

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
christeana1

Sounds delicious!

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55

The most impressive thing about this tea is how the leaves transform from flaky and smelling of hay when dry to a bright green with bread dough odor when wet. The pale yellow brew has a bit of citrus and a bit of hay, but not much finish at all. Overall, it’s not wowing me, but worth another cup. I did a Western steep per Upton’s suggestion; not sure if shorter, more concentrated steeps in a gaiwan would make a difference.

Flavors: Citrus, Hay

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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78

I took Whispering Pines at their word and steeped 1 tbsp in 8 oz for 1/1.5/2/3/4 minutes. They suggest going up to 7 steeps, so I’ll try that next time when I can spend several house enjoying it. And enjoy I did:
Dry leaves: nondescript, tightly twisted, but a pleasantly dusty and perhaps melon scent
1: nothing jumped out except a bit of honey
2: the leaves gave me fading roses and the darker liquor was smooth, rich, and slightly tannic
3: even more rose scent and the flavor a bit of melon
4: still going strong and smooth, the melon even stronger. I think this might be the sweet spot among the steeps.
5: no change in the notes, but it still has subtle flavors. Pretty impressive for just 1 tbsp of tea in twice the water my gaiwan holds

I’ll keep trying this one because I suspect there’s more to it than I am detecting. All around, a fine tea that I could sit with for a while. It would be particularly fun to do several steeps with someone else and compare notes.

Flavors: Honey, Melon, Rose

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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83

This one gave me a wonderful surprise toward the end that I hope repeats on subsequent tries. I used a gaiwan 1Tbsp/190°/30/60/90. The dry nose had a bit of fresh mown grass to it, but the first wet odor struck me as seaweed, but also lightly toasted, and with something sweet in the background (raisins maybe? or apricot?). The brew was very pale (did I understeep?), just barely sweet, and with a soft lingering finish. Second steep was slightly darker, not sweet and just a bit tannic, but still has some apricot in there somewhere. The final steep threw me for a loop when I came over a bit lemony. No idea where that came from, but it sure was nice.

Flavors: Apricot, Freshly Cut Grass, Lemon, Seaweed, Toasty

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

I’m glad I ordered a full ounce of this and probably should have gotten more since my son has decided that he favors it too (here’s hoping he doesn’t swipe it when he heads back to college next week). The dry leaves had malt overtones, which came out even more in the brew. There were also floral notes, some smoke, and, oddly, I thought I detected a certain saltiness in the aftertaste. I’ll have to brew it again to see if I was imagining that. Next time will be in a gaiwan because I think this will reveal very different characteristics over several shorter steeps. Really lovely soft mouth feel and an all-around fine tea.

Flavors: Floral, Malt, Salt, Smoke

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 45 sec 3 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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90

I’ve fallen way behind on posting tasting notes, so I’ll dash off a few now, then I’m out of commission through the weekend while I ride the Pan-Mass Challenge (almost 200 miles in two days with all of the money raised going to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – count me in!).

I’d heard so much about this one from other Steepsters that I had to try it, and I’m not sorry I did. The first steep gave me a lovely toastiness and breadiness in the foreground with a kind of minty fresh sense when I inhaled after a sip. The dark caramel color was particularly attractive. The leaves were more unfurled at the second steep, which is what probably gave me the richer mouth feel and the still-toasty flavor. In my third and final steep (of this round), the flavors are starting to fade a bit, but it’s still roasty-toasty and fun. Jabberwocky is a keeper for sure.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Mint, Toast

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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90

This tea is…whoa…it’s, wow, um, just really remarkable stuff. From the first sip it… no wait, first I sniffed the wet leaves and, what IS that lovely scent? I can’t quite place it. Wait, is that…miso? Whooooa, what’s THAT doing in my cup of tea?

I followed Whispering Pines’ suggested brew: 1 tbsp/8 ounces/190ºF for 3 minutes/5 minutes/8 minutes. There was cedar, there was honey, there was nut of some kind (cashews? pecans?). And I gotta tell you, this gave me quite a lift (which is just what I needed coming home from a long day of work). I didn’t notice additional tastes coming out at each steep, but they didn’t really go away either. Good, as they say, to the last drop. Yup, glad I got an ounce of this. It’s going to be a regular brew.

Flavors: Cedar, Honey

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Bio

I grew up drinking Lipton with lots of sugar and lemon. It’s only over the last few years that I’ve come to discover and appreciate real tea. Now I’m on a mission to expose as many of my friends as possible to the delights of Camellia sinensis. I dream of opening a tea shop someday where people can sit, slow down, and enjoy a proper cup properly steeped. I have so much to learn to make that happen, so I’m eager to chat, meet, and sip with those who know more than I.

I can’t say that I’ve discovered a favorite tea yet. I lean toward the bolder black teas (I don’t think I’ve tried a keemun I didn’t like), but those with lots of golden tips spark my taste buds too (Golden Monkey, dubbed “Monkey Butt” by my then-teenage son, is always popular in my house).

I love the pu-ehrs I’ve tried, but I know that that is a whole world of flavors that could take me years to explore. I keep sampling subtler white, green, and yellow teas, and I’m learning as I go. Let’s face it, I’m sampling everything I can and having a ball doing it.

Speaking of sampling, I’m eager to swap, so feel free to peruse my cupboard (I’m making a concerted effort to record what I have) and ask me for any of it.

When I’m not steeping, I write, bike, raise kids, love my wife, and cook fine vegetarian fare.

That picture is of me at a rest stop on a long bike ride. I’m still working on how to combine long-distance cycling with tea drinking. Hmmm . . .

Location

Newton, Massachusetts

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